REVIEW: Monsters of Folk – S/T

monstersoffolkArtist: Monsters of Folk
Album: Monsters of Folk
Genre: Indie Rock [Gods]
Label: Shangri-La

The world of so-called “supergroups” is quite a treacherous one because though you have a lot of talent in one room, it in no way means they can work together to create a piece of work that lives up to the hype of the names of those involved. More often than not these groups go terribly wrong and legendary performers end up deflecting bullets with their guitars in music videos [Damn Yankees] or worse, are unable to sell out even a 600 capacity club in a major market city [Tinted Windows]. However, this mold of supergroups releasing super-letdowns has been shattered as of today as Monsters of Folk [featuring Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, Yim Yames of My Morning Jacket, and M. Ward] have just released their stellar self-titled debut that is full of timid simplicity with the occasional accent of poignant indie rock beauty that is sure to shake you to your core.

Beginning with the dreamlike “Dear God [Sincerely M.O.F.],” the group wastes no time separating themselves from their respective musical shells as a series of harp scales, drum tracks, and what appears to be nothing short of a tornado of strings make the accompaniment as the three frontmen [minus Mogis] take turns speaking to God before questioning why his presence allows pain to be wrought on the Earth. It’s deep and sonically gorgeous without diving too deep into the “indie” world in which these artists all dabble. In fact, in rattles with the tones of 70’s crooner pop at some points.

It’s at this point that the album bursts from near psychedelic tones of the opener and move don to the more early folk rock laden grooves all these artists are more known for and in doing so, allows us to see new perspectives on sounds we’ve all come to not only love and expect, but be moved by. “Whole Lotta Losin'” will bring back memories of Jim Morrison’s over drugged swagger as M. Ward outlines a life spent on the road and losing touch with reality, but in a way that even those of us stuck behind computers Monday-Friday are able to relate to. A much more mellow sound is found on the Oberst led “Temazcal” which will surely please fans of his Bright Eyes project. In fact, this track would have fit beautifully on I’m Wide awake It’s Morning, but still feels at home here amongst the ideas of the indie scene’s masterminds. It’s then followed with the Yim Yames first lead track, “The Right PLace,” which brings a solid dose of country infusion that that felt allows even for non fans of Yames other works to tap their feet along. Think a more indie rock version of “Last Kiss,” with with the ethos of the hippie movement alive and well within, as is the case for most of the record.

The album then continues on by walking a fine line between 70’s psych rock throwback blended with folk ethos and a modern indie twist to create a cocktail that goes down smoother than even some of the members own albums. Oberst continues to steal the show on “Man Named Truth” which feels a bit much like an Outer South b-side, but veers jsut enough into the world’s of Ward and Yames to feel unique to the record. The other Oberst lead pieces, “Ahead of The Curve” and “Map of The World” are the most elaborate lyrical pieces on the record and generally dance between the moody mind that brought us Bright Eyes and the more country/folk rock tones we’ve found in his later work.

As for M. Ward and Yim Yames, the two members whose catalogs I enjoyed the least, they both pulled out some truly remarkable moments throughout the album. “Goodway” and “The Sandman, The Brakeman, and Me” boasts simplistic lyrics that reach depths even oceanographers can’t imagine. His whispered tones seep into your bloodstream and relax you while causing a riot of thought within you mind. Likewise, Yames’ work on the closer “His Master’s Voice” simply spell bounds you before the record finally dies down. It’s in these last four and a half minutes that we’re given some of the most bare bones, yet heavy material this group has given us to date. As Yames bellows “You’re only going to hear what you want to hear, do you hear your master’s voice now,” I dare you to not feel your very soul moved and your beliefs questioned. There’s no outright statement throughout the record on a political or religious stance, but in word play like this one cannot help, but take the record to a different place both mentally and emotionally than 90% of the music you’ll hear in your lifetime. It stays with you, hell, haunts you, and your more than overjoyed for having been exposed to it.

In the end, the self titled release from Monster of Folk not only redeems the term “supergroup,”but also stands as a testament to the skills of everyone involved. This isn’t just some mildly memorable one-off recording that we’ll talk about later, but a near instant contender for the best record released all year. Through combining sounds that once seemed frozen in time to shaking your very being through the depth of the lyrical abilities, MOF have created something that music fans will be enjoying for years to come. It’s not about the hype or the people involved, it’s about the music and the sheer level of artistry that is displayed. It’s more a love letter to musicianship than an album and the fact it features some of the biggest indie heavyweights of the past decade is simply icing on the cake.

Score: 9.7/10

James Shotwell
Latest posts by James Shotwell (see all)
Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “REVIEW: Monsters of Folk – S/T”

  1. […] Under The Gun Review » Blog Archive » REVIEW: Monsters of Folk – S/T […]

  2. Beaglescout says:

    I thought you would like this one. :)